Search Engine Optimization – How does it really work?

Search Engine Optimization – How does it really work?

Here are, in no particular order, the quotes we hear all the time about SEO:


“It’s just adding meta tags to your web pages”

“There is no way to influence Google to rank you better”

“All there is to SEO is adding keyphrases to your pages”

“There is no way to outrank your competition if they already beat you to the top”


It’s hardly worth saying that these are all complete BS.  Spoken by people who don’t know anything about SEO.


Far WORSE are the things we hear from companies who call themselves SEO “experts”:


“Google will never find out if you buy links”

“We have copywriters who understand your industry”

“Scraping content is fine, as long as you make it a LITTLE different on your site”


And by far the one that bugs us the most:


“If we told you how we get you ranked, we’d be giving away our company secrets”


That last one is 100% certified, grade-A BS.  Let’s be clear:  there is no magic or secrets to getting you ranked in the search engines.  It’s all out there, from 100 or more different expert organizations.   Anyone not willing to tell you how it works just simply doesn’t know how to do it.  And to prove that VSIis NOTa company like that, we’re going to tell you how SEO works.  Right this second.


First let’s start with a quick definition:  SEO is simply optimizing a website – both right on the site and on other sites that point to it – to help search engines understand 2 things:


  1. What your site is ABOUT. What you have expertise in.
  2. Why your site is POPULAR. Why it should be seen and read by people.


That’s it.  That’s all you try to do.  The devil, of course, is in the details.  So let’s take these one at a time.


Getting a search engine to understand what your site is about comes down to content.  If you own a beef jerky site, it’s not just about talking about the different kinds of beef jerky.  What beef is best?  What are the different options for actually making the stuff?  What flavorings and spices can be used?  How long should it take?  Where are some of the best jerkies in the world made?  How did you get into this business?  And on and on.  Search engines want to see BREADTH of content across a RANGE of keyphrases.  Here is what most people think SEO optimized content should look like:


“Good beef jerky can come from a lot of different places.  In our experience, the best beef jerky is made from round steak.  Beef jerky seasoned with spices is very tasty.  If you like beef jerky, it makes a great snack.  Check out our wide range of beef jerky on our shop page.”


Thrilling content, right?  Yeah – we don’t think so either.  Keyword stuffed, and most importantly – NO value to the reader!  But how could a search engine know how bad it is?  Well – it’s complicated (using systems like latent semantic analysis), but it’s exactly what they do.  And more importantly, as time goes on – they get BETTER at doing it.


The solution turns out to be easy:  write unique, important, quality content.  Users will love you for it, and so will the engines.


So how about getting the site to be popular?  Well – that comes down to who is talking about you.  Take for example a link from your friend’s website.  He knows you, loves your jerky, and posts about it on his blog.  That looks to engines like a “vote” for your site.  Get a lot of those, and the engines will begin to understand that you are popular.


But hold on.  There are a couple of problems.  Don’t just go out and start asking people for links.  It turns out that the QUALITY and RELEVANCE of those links are really, really important.


Let’s say we both have jerky websites.  You start asking people – just anyone – for links to your website.  And you get some.  You get a few from family and friends, and then you get a few from some businesses you know.  Your wife’s financial services company gives you a link.  Your friend’s lumber yard gives you one.  And so on and so forth.  Now at the same time, I’m out talking to people in my industry.  I get a local farmers market to link to me.  I get a couple of restaurants to do the same.  I even get lucky and the National Association of Cattle Farmers gives me a whole story on their web site, saying I have “some of the best jerky they have ever tasted” – with a link right there to my site.


Which one do you think the engines will think is more authentic?  Yeah.  Exactly.


Look – we won’t kid you here.  There is a lot more to SEO than just great content and good links.  But those are for sure the basics.  Get those in order, and you’ll be way ahead of most people.  And if you need more help – just call us.  We will give you the straight story.  No BS.

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